“The Intergalactic Nemesis, Book One” a frenzied and fervid hodgepodge of depression-era pulp, ’90s retrofitted indie comics and sensational sci-fi cheese, is the decade-in-the-making, nerdgasmic passion project of writer-director-producer Jason Neulander. It’s steeped in geeky nostalgia, a glassy-eyed love for that highly enjoyable corny brand of sci-fi.
Neulander employs a vast arsenal to envelop the audience in his show: hand-drawn images thrown against a screen, three voice actors having a gas playing a revolving cast of kooky characters, and one enigmatic Foley sound-effects performer playing with various household items (box of Kraft macaroni, shoes, cinder blocks, those long bendy tubes that make funny noises when you spin them).
The amazing part of “The Intergalactic Nemesis” is watching and hearing the artists create the sounds in real time; there is no pre-recording of sound or music. (The images, however, are, obviously, already drawn and rendered.) The disappointing part of “The Intergalactic Nemesis” is pretty much everything else.
The writing is, to put it kindly, bad. And not good bad — not ha-ha, self-aware meta-bad. Audiences are privy to such witticisms as, “This is odd like the number 13,” and all the obligatory declarations of world domination and various henchmen (of various species) throwing various switches to unleash various methods of would-be destruction, and so on. It’s grade-B cheddar but it doesn’t display enough tongue-in-cheek self-consciousness to feel like anything but derivative impersonation.
And the art lacks identity. Having over 2,500 hand-drawn images is cool, but it would be cooler if they weren’t 2,500 banal images. The legion of comic geeks may grind teeth to the gums at the milquetoast mundanity of the art; instead of evoking the pulp era, “The Intergalactic Nemesis” tries to emulate it.
The show does excel as aural performance art, though. The voice talents — Danu Uribe, David Higgins, Christopher Lee Gibsons — give gloriously bombastic, schizoid performances, deftly, and comically, jumping between characters. Gibson is particularly fun, throwing on his best-worst French and Russian accents. And Cami Alys, the Foley sound effects performer, subtly steals the show with her menagerie of sounds and silent comic reactions.
“The Intergalactic Nemesis” aspires for pastiche, dropping allusions to Indiana Jones, “Terminator 2,” Katherine Hepburn and more obvious references to Mae West and Peter Lorre. But it falls far short of lionization.
Indiana Jones was homage rendered iconic because it created its own identity while paying tribute to its roots. “Intergalactic Nemesis,” a spectacular presentation of bland pulp material, is chained to its roots.
Greg Cwik is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.